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The Sorrows is the first of many re-published backlist titles from Jonathan Janz and was his first book. It was originally published in 2012 and has been out of print for some time, and I am so glad that this and his other work is being re-released!
Holy crap what a ride that was! Friends, I know you have seen me screaming about The Siren and the Specter and The Children of the Dark, so I am sure that it will come as no surprise to you that I thoroughly enjoyed The Sorrows as well.
The story follows Ben Shadeland and Eddie Blaze, a Hollywood composer duo trying to beat the deadline for the score for the next horror film from renowned director Lee Stanley. Ben’s had a bit of creative block since his
horrible wife divorced him, and Eddie has taken to haunting legends in Northern California to scare Ben into inspiration.
Despite the fact that they’d mind for inspiration in eerie places several times, Ben felt the old thrill. Sometimes the tale inspired him, sometimes it was the setting. Often, the music didn’t come until days later, when a specific memory triggered his imagination.
Eddie has one last trick up his sleeve before their time is up: a month on an isolated island off the coast of Northern California called The Sorrows with an unsolved mystery attached to it.
The characters honestly are the gem of this story. Honestly, the exposition and character description in the first 20% of the book was incredible and never felt info-dumpy. I felt like these were real people that I knew. Which makes it more alarming as the characters stop acting like themselves; or rather, the darkest parts of themselves are amplified. Every character is fighting their own personal demons… and real ones.
“It won’t let us leave,” Eva whispered.”
Having read both his latest and now first works, I can see the growth Janz has experienced as a writer but his raw talent is palpable. He has a command of writing that sucks the reader into the story and grips them start to finish. I enjoy that Janz juxtaposes supernatural horror elements with the horror and depravity of the human condition. I also appreciated the many allusions, implicit and called out, to the work of Edgar Allan Poe.
She stayed behind a moment and gazed up at the castle. Yes, she decided. There was an intelligence in its towering pallid contours. Something corrosive and upsettingly sly. It reminded her very much of another Poe story, ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’ Except this building did not look like it could fall. It looked like it would stand forever, far outliving its inhabitants.
Like the other books I have read by this author, I was captivated by the horrors. This book took a bit longer to build into the “NOPE” note territory for me, but the last 40% of the book was a nonstop ride on the nope train! My blood was pumping and I was anxious to see what would happen, hoping that the horrible characters would get their just desserts, and completely enthralled by what I will refer to as Gabriel. I really liked the allusions made there and I hope that is further explored in the series!
The downside to having his latest work published before his first novel is of course that the average reader may not dig to find out that this is a re-released title. This is a really good book, but after the success of Siren and the Specter it pales in comparison to how Janz has grown as a writer. I hope that the final publication does make note of this.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I did struggle with the many characters and multiple perspectives, and the pacing was a little inconsistent in the middle. Some of the first flashback asides felt really disjointed to me; however, the payoff was incredible: the multiple perspectives tied together and the extra time dedicated to exposition when I was looking for action was made up for in spades. For me personally, I wish that there were a few less characters woven together and that the journal exposition was somehow tied into the plot (like Ben or someone finding them and reading along with the reader), but honestly for a first book I am utterly impressed.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Sorrows a lot, and cannot wait for the sequel because THAT FINAL LINE! There is a lot of intricate backstory and interesting exposition, the horror doesn’t really get started until 60% or so. But the book is scary and the payoff for multiple characters and POVs is there. I actually think this would adapt well to the screen and make an incredible movie. If you like Edgar Allan Poe and films like The Amityville horror, I highly recommend this book!
content warnings: torture, gore, abuse of power (a Harvey Weinstein-like character), murder, abuse, fatshaming (challenged and addressed), voyeurism, attempted rape
Many thanks to Flame Tree Press for sending me an eARC for review. Quotations are taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon publication. The Sorrows will be available on November 30, 2018!
You can find information about my rating criteria here.